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It's About Terror

Glaxo Wellcome.

Already this has started badly. "Glaxo Wellcome" is not a good name; it sounds like some vaguely sinister corporation run by a comic-book supervillain. Or maybe a company dealing in items of a distinctly rectangular, distinctly fifties sensibility, like boomerang formica tabletops. Since I've seen their TV commercials, I'm betting on the former; boomerang formica simply isn't evil enough.

Here's the rub: Sometime around reel two of last year, the FDA started to allow the makers of prescription medication to advertise their products on television. The reasoning used to be that there was no way that any television commercial could contain the horse-choking pile of legal minutiae and medical indications which normally accompany any advertisement for prescription medication; to get that much information in, you'd need an infomercial. Hell, you'd need a telethon.

When prescription drug ads first appeared, the ads basically couldn't make any claims about what a drug was even for without being forced to see the latest count on the tote board. You might remember the ad featuring fields, flowers, and happy people sniffing the air, accompanied only by the vague statement, "Ask your doctor about Allegra!"

Then the FDA revised the rules, and said that as long as a commercial contained pointers to where the relevant information (that would be those popular pages of tiny legal and medical type) could be found, it was allowable to advertise prescription medicine in between ads for Ginsana and Garlique. The probably thought this would be an improvement over strange big-brotherish advertisements like "Ask your doctor about Allegra!"

Oh, Lord, they were wrong. They were so wrong.

Glaxo Wellcome was apparently champing at the bit to promote Valtrex, their wonder drug that does wonders. Now that the TV ad for Valtrex is burned into my brain, it's safe to say that the FDA and Glaxo Wellcome have managed to construct the most omnipresent, freakish, and creative campaign of organized terror since the Spanish Inquisition.

I first saw the ad at 3 a.m., that twilight hour when most respectable channels have gone to bed and most disrespectable channels have started showing infomercials. George Foreman is selling his fryer/fat racetrack-FLIP-there's something to improve memory-FLIP- something to help you get to sleep.

And then I saw it. The plague that Glaxo Wellcome brought upon us.

It begins innocently enough: A happy couple, walking down the beach. A nice green filter overshadows everything, giving the world a kind of happy, cheerful, idyllic look. All is right with the world. Love is in the air. And the beach is just beautiful this time of year.

I've been in Pittsburgh longer than I care to think about. Even ads involving the beach bring a lump to my throat.

And then the Magic Voice rings in. You can't see her, but you can tell she's happy and cheerful; you just know she's smiling. In the back of your head, you can picture her, grinning happily. She's probably a Sunday School teacher about to lecture kids about the clean bits of biblical history, maybe with help from a little felt boards and some Ezekiel paste-on profiles.

Of course, the first words out of her mouth are "Genital Herpes." And she's smiling as she says it. Like Genital Herpes is a Good Thing, like she's talking about getting a gold star on your latest Bible Quiz.

Then she tells you "it's about suppression." That once you get Genital Herpes, you get it for life. The message "It's about suppression" flashes up on the screen in nice italic type as the loving couple rejoice in their happiness, there, on the beach, in a green filter, with their lifelong case of genital herpes.

She continues to smile while she talks about your Genital Herpes, and their Genital Herpes, and how to suppress everybody's Genital Herpes. As if Genital Herpes wasn't bad enough, she has some medication, and she's smiling as she tells you about it. And she's smiling as she tells you about the possible side effects, which can apparently kill people suffering from HIV or heart conditions, and the most common of which is headache. And it's such a happy world, where everybody's walking down the beach and nuzzling and transmitting painful sexually transmitted diseases and taking medication that gives them hangovers but prevents them from transmitting the diseased foulness of their vile, infected, disease-ridden crotches to the rest of unsuspecting mankind. And the world is so happy, so green, so young and in love and infected with Genital Herpes.

I had nearly fallen asleep before this ad; George Foreman has that effect on me. But now I doubt I'll ever sleep again. I keep thinking about that woman with the smiling voice. Does she hate those people that much? Is she on drugs? Is the Valtrex paycheck that big? Does she even know, or is talking in a cheerful fashion about Genital Herpes, in the abstract or specific, some part of drama school that they don't tell you about until after you sign up?

Various other thoughts run through my mind, not the least of which is that Valtrex is a prescription medicine. To my knowledge, there are no off-the-shelf herpes medications. (After all, what would you call one? Herp-off? Sores-B-Gone? Herpules?) But I have to admit that the pros and cons of herpes suppression hasn't been an in-depth topic of discussion around my family dinner table.

Am I supposed to want to walk on that beach? I mean, there seems to be a pretty nasty cover charge. Are they encouraging me to get genital herpes so I can use Valtrex and experience headaches? I mean, they obviously want me to buy Valtrex, but all the ad has done to me is quell my libido better than a ton of saltpeter and two years of cold showers could ever manage.

Thanks to Glaxo Wellcome and their depraved idea of a good television advertisement, I'll never be able to sleep comfortably again. Instead of resting comfortably, all I can see is the dreaded logo of Glaxo Wellcome. All I can hear in my ears over the crashing of the surf is the world "Valtrex." It's taunting me, mocking me... calling me home.


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